Donald Trump declared during his first debate against President Joe Biden ahead of November's presidential election that war in Ukraine "should have never started" had he been in office.

"That's right!" chanted his supporter Monika Rothenbuhler amid applause in a bar in San Francisco.

Rothenbuhler, the vice chair of the local branch of the Republican party, stood on conquered ground in the pub chosen by conservatives to watch the televised duel together, in a city where they represent a minority of voters.

Trump's many invectives and sarcasm targeting the Democratic president were met with laughter and shouts of approval, while Biden's every hesitation and throat-clearing was a moment of triumph for most, but not for 80-year-old Hazel Reitz.


"I can't understand a word that he says," she blurts out to her neighbor.

"I know, it's really sad," replied Adina Erridge.

The two women had met only moments earlier after spotting each other's reactions, which sharply contrasted the rest of the conservative audience.

"Oh my God!" lamented Erridge, as Reitz shook her head as former president Trump defended his actions during the storming of the Capitol by his supporters on January 6, 2021.

- 'At least he's articulate' -

The two women, who will unenthusiastically be voting for Biden, came to the pub with their husbands, both doubtful Republicans.

Before the debate began, Reitz hoped the exchanges between the two politicians would be "entertaining", but an hour later, she was downcast. "Biden is too old," she lamented.

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"Trump is not answering the questions, which is very Trump-like. He may not be truthful in what he's saying. But at least he's articulate," agreed 55-year-old Erridge. "Unfortunately, Trump is winning."

At the Continental Club, a bar in downtown Los Angeles, the frustration of a largely Democratic audience was also palpable.

But Mike McFarland refused to admit his candidate's defeat.

"You have to determine what's more important to you, optics or facts. I'm big on the facts, so I'm still like Biden won the debate," he declared.


He came to watch the debate on a first date with Denise Hernandez, a fervent Trump supporter.

"We agree to disagree," they joked.

- 'Not here!' -

At San Francisco's The Kezar Pub, silence descends when the candidates are asked about the opioid crisis.

Fentanyl has wreaked havoc in a city where highly-paid Silicon Valley employees rub shoulders on a daily basis with a surging homeless population.

"Fentanyl and the byproducts of fentanyl went down for a while," said Biden.

"Not here!" retorted a woman watching the debate.

Republican supporters were reveling in sharing public space around politics in San Francisco.

Trump bagged nine percent of the vote here in 2016, and nearly 13 percent in 2020.

"Did Trump win?" asked a beaming John Dennis, the party chairman for the Californian city.

"I was afraid Trump would be too aggressive from the start, but he did very well," he told AFP.

"You just have to give someone enough rope to hang themselves and that's what Trump did with Biden".

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